Lives of the fellows

George (Sir) Newman

b.23 October 1870 d.26 May 1948
GBE KCB MD Hon LLD Edin Hon DSc Oxon Hon DCL Durh Hon LLD Lond McGill Toronto Glasg Leeds DPH Cantab(1895) FRCP(1918) Hon FRCS

George Newman was born at Leominster, the second son of Henry Stanley Newman and his wife Mary Anna Pumphrey. His father, a Quaker and editor of Friend, sent him to school at Bootham, York, and to King’s College, London, and Edinburgh University for his medical education. Having graduated at Edinburgh in 1892, he won the Gunning scholarship for public health and took the Cambridge D.P.H. in 1895. A year afterwards he was made senior demonstrator of bacteriology and lecturer on infectious diseases at King’s. He resigned in 1900 to become medical officer of health for Finsbury and for Bedfordshire.

Newman’s life’s work began when in 1907 he accepted the post of chief medical officer to the Board of Education, which, under Morant, was about to embark on a policy of school medical reform. In this capacity he was responsible for giving effect to the provisions of much of the extensive health legislation of the next two and a half decades. During the 1914-1918 War he performed the additional duties of chairman of the Health of Munition Workers’ Committee and member of the Liquor Control Board and numerous interdepartmental committees. In 1919 he undertook a second major appointment — that of chief medical officer to the Ministry of Health. From 1919, too, he was Crown representative on the General Medical Council, until his retirement in 1935. Throughout his association with the two Ministries he contrived to make their annual reports intelligible and interesting to the general reader. He was himself the author of three valuable publications — Hygiene and Public Health (1917), Outline of the Practice of Preventive Medicine (1917), and The Building of a Nation's Health (1939). He delivered the Harveian Oration at the Royal College of Physicians in 1932 and received the Bissett-Hawkins medal in 1935. In his leisure, he edited anonymously the Friends' Quarterly Examiner for some forty years.

Newman regarded himself as a doctor rather than a civil servant and appreciated that the human relationship between general practitioner and patient must be preserved in any State medical organisation. His most fruitful work was accomplished with Morant at the Board of Education. In later years, a solitary figure, aloof from his staff, he lost his early momentum and tended to become the planner of reforms rather than their instrument. He remained, however, an able publicist, a master of the English language, and a scholar of the history of medicine.

He married in 1898 Adelaide Constance, daughter of Samuel Thorp of Alderley Edge; they had no children. He lived at Harrow Weald in his retirement.

G H Brown

[Lancet, 1948; B.M.J., 1948; Presidential Address to R.C.P., 1949, 11]

(Volume IV, page 559)

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